#Croydon #TechCity Business Panel Review

By - Thursday 27th June, 2013

Rajdeep reports from the Croydon Tech City Business Panel, which took place on the 20th June 2013


I arrive just in the nick of time to hear Nigel Dias, head of advice and investment of Croydon Tech City, welcoming everyone to another event at Matthews Yard. This month was the Business Panel focusing on the steps of starting a business.

I’d like to be honest with you now. I am not a ‘techie’; the most technical I get is occasionally adding something in bold or italic to a blog post and using the code rather than the button. Neither am I attempting to set up a business or harbouring any ideas that will revolutionise the world or make me enough money to join the liberated digital nomads.

Last month was my first time at a Croydon Tech City event, drawn because it was focused on ‘Women in Tech’. It was completely packed and left me contemplating ditching publishing for the ‘big idea’ so that I too could stand up and proclaim that ‘I am a woman in tech!’ In just one month I have been able to connect to a whole community of creative, open, and friendly people willing to advise. The fact that I don’t have to be in business or technology and yet still I leave feeling I have gained something is incredible.

This month there were two presentations: Kate Jackson, co-founder of TableCrowd, was up first, followed by Danny Jeremiah, founder of Kinopto.

Kate Jackson left school at 17 and headed to the city to work in a bank, then switched careers into law, but never aspired to become a partner at a law firm. In 2007 she founded a website called ClickTonight with her brother Stephen Jackson, which aimed to help people meet quickly. By 2011 the siblings had founded TableCrowd and merged the two together. TableCrowd aims to get people together over food. Using the website you can go online and join a ‘crowd’ or a ‘table’ then meet in the real world for dinner.

Kate turned her idea into a business through research. Since 2010 it has become more acceptable to be online and connect with people you have never met. Everyone is checking in, “from the toilet to the Eiffel Tower” as Kate put it, and people are happy to share their location. There are no longer jobs for life either so there is a necessity to continuously be networking, and not just in a professional capacity. This was where TableCrowd could work.

“You have to have an idea how to make money,” she advises us. “Don’t think just advertising, there are other ways before that, you need a lot of traffic first.”

Before setting up her first business she had no business skills, but with her brother they pooled their knowledge to make it work. Whereas for ClickTonight she wrote a business proposal the size of a novel, which barely anyone read, for TableCrowd it was a much shorter powerpoint presentation. “Pitch to everyone, people you already know. If you don’t ask you don’t get. You’ll be surprised who will write you a cheque.”

Not coming from a tech background made it difficult to know which questions to ask and a lot of money spent on trying to set up a website. “Tech was a nightmare on ClickTonight; we didn’t know SEO had to be planned before you start.” But through that they learned. “A website is never finished, it’s always evolving and you need to project for that.”

At the moment they are trying to continue the momentum by using email marketing, word of mouth, and guest blogging. They’ve even partnered with TimeOut London. The website has recently been re-launched so that it works across all platforms. Kate recalls how she would dread the moment when someone would look the website up on their phones and she wouldn’t know what they would be looking at, or if it would even work.

For the future they are looking to work with hotels. “It’s important to have someone off the ground. But the model is still being determined.” When asked if they were making money Kate replied “we are generating revenue” then added “we’re too young to be profitable.”

Danny Jeremiah was up next to talk about his business, Kinopto, which aims to get more people to watch films on the big screen. He was a finalist at SeedCamp, which is offers start-ups investment after a lengthy process which includes a judging panel. Now, Danny works from Matthews Yard. Before he set up his business he was a cinema engineer and currently Kinopto is at the beta stage. Before Kinopto, Danny had lots of ideas and had always wanted to set up his own business. “My idea came from my job,” he tells us. “Don’t look for an idea, you get tired and it won’t be the best one you have. Good ideas will come to you.”

Which offers me some reassurance that the digital nomad life is still an option. But he also gives some controversial advice. “When you tell everyone [about your idea] people will tell you if it is rubbish or good. Tell your network not just your family. There’s always a fear that someone will steal your idea. But there are few unique ideas for businesses left. If you have an idea chances are someone already had it.” To prove his point he pulls out his phone and reels off a list of ideas from AngelList.

“You have to make the leap doing this full time and commit, this will be your life. You just know eventually you’ve put enough work in and the risk of not doing it is more than doing it.”

Kinopto was funded through Crowdcube, raising money from the low end of their value. “Really ask yourself what you need money for, what will it be used for”. Through the crowd funding platform they managed to get twenty investors.

“It’s tempting to spend time chasing opportunities as they present themselves. Saying no is hard but it can save you a lot of bother, ask the right questions and stick to your market that you know and scale it out from there.” They are still not running ‘business as usual’ and are working out the cost for the customer, so there is a lot more work still to come.

After a break and some speedy networking/toilet trip/more alcohol came the question and answer session. The panel was formed by the previously mentioned Kate Jackson, Ash Rishi from WeAreCouch, Jonathan Morall from Kilburn & Strode, Steve Bardouille from Famberry, and Gordon Bull from Bryden Johnson.

Opening up to the audience there was an array of questions. I’ve picked a few useful or inspiring quotes that came out of them:

“Start from pen and paper, let people know, show it to people and they will tell you if it works or not. You don’t need to code to start. The more people you tell the more that you will have to do it.” – Steve Bardouille

“Have a vision about what you are trying to achieve. A lot of startups are trying to improve something; they’re not doing it for the money. That helps you through the tough times. Don’t worry about the money, there’s always the bank of Mum and Dad, friends or family. Good ideas will attract people.” – Gordon Bull

“Don’t shout too loud [about your idea]. Come as early as possible with as much information as possible. We can drill down to what needs to be patented and what to protect. We offer an hour free meeting to explore patenting and that’s of course confidential when you’re talking to us.” – Jonathan Morall

“We waited too long [to get a mentor] but we built up a network along the way. We were very open to anyone who could help us. A lot of sharks out there and we met quite a few so get references from people. They know you’re vulnerable so they will promise you the world. They can’t do everything they promise, they want equity.” – Kate Jackson

“Have unwavering will.” – Steve Bardouille

The next event: the Croydon Tech City July Edition.

Sign up the event – to be held on Thursday 18th July at 7.30pm – here.

Croydon Tech City FTW.


Rajdeep Sandhu has been a lifelong resident in New Addington, apart from when she studied journalism in central London. Now she works in book publishing and when she isn't working, can be found reading, writing or tweeting. Most of all she is excited about how New Addington will benefit from the changes in Croydon.

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